While Amaarae is on a meteoric rise to super stardom in the music industry, she is still completely that home girl you just want to chill with. In our latest digital issue, we sat with her to talk about her music, personal philosophies and her coming of age as a woman.
We hoped to been able to capture the true essence of her charisma and personality with this editorial and we hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed working on it. To the Atomic Angel!
I have personally always wanted know the meaning behind the name ‘Amaarae’. Please tell us how it came about.
My name ‘Amaarae’ came about pretty simply. Back in the day when Facebook was a thing, I had my name on Facebook as Ama Rae Gyamfi (my last name) and the ‘Rae’ came from one of my favorite artistes at the time; Corinne Bailey Rae. So when I was in high school, I started dropping freestyles, I’d post them on my page and everyone would call me ‘Amaarae’ and that’s actually how it stuck.
If we didn’t know you as a music artist, what would we know you for?
I don’t know. I think I’d still do something related to being in a creative field. I would have loved to go into advertising – writing copy. That would have been fun. I think it would be interesting to own a label; managing artistes, that may have been another career option. I think for me, music has always been the end of it all so I’ve never really thought of my other options.
Tell us about your bi-cultural upbringing. How was it shuffling between both Accra and Atlanta?
It was interesting. Growing up in Ghana, I think, was where I was really awakened musically. A lot of people would be surprised but Ghanaians are very much into music and are very sort of ‘DIY’ and experimental; I learned how to record music back in 2009 from dudes in school that were recording music at the back of the computer lab. With Atlanta, I mean Atlanta was like my hip-hop music education. Right when I moved to Atlanta, that’s when southern hip hop was really becoming a thing, like T.I., Yung Bleu, Lil Jon and East Side Boys, Gucci Mane, Jeezy, Lloyd, like so many dope down south artists and like me just being in the middle of all that was so incredible; outcast like just hearing such fresh ass music really sort of just awakened my spirit, my energy and my love for that southern bounce and I think you can hear it all across the album too as well; on songs like Celine, Hellz Angel & Trust Fund Baby
To what extent do you believe growing up has influenced the adult you are now?
A hundred percent! My bi-cultural upbringing first of all taught me very early on that being able to adapt quickly is an important life skill and that’s one of my biggest assets. But then also, understanding cultures and understanding different people and places and why they do the things that they do based on their culture absolutely influenced me.
What were some of your favourite memories growing up?
My favourite memory I remember as a kid, my mum used to work at a bank and when I had the summers off, she would take me to this tea shop near her job and she would buy me scones and I’d have hot chocolate and she’d have tea. We’d chat and she taught me table manners. That is one of my fondest memories.
Another one of my fondest memories I have is when I’d come to Ghana during the summers when we moved to Atlanta. My cousins lived in Dansoman at the time and that was really close to my dad’s so I would be at their house all the time. Every Saturday, we’d all get together in their house and watch wrestling in the living room. We would then pretend to do what the wrestlers were doing and niggas were getting their asses beaten up, bruv, I got my ass whooped up a few times. Those were some really fun moments and I’ve got so many more and I don’t want to go in.
Do you remember your earliest memory of music? At what age did you realize you were made for this music thing?
I don’t think I remember my earliest memory of music but one of my fondest ones is when I was young, I came to Ghana one summer and my dad had this mix CD in his car which had this record on it; Underneath It All by No Doubt and that was the first time that I discovered that song and I remember playing it the whole day because I loved that record. And that was one of those moments where you get hooked by a song.
Another memory is when I found a mix CD my uncle made for my mum in her car. It had all these bangers; Thong Song, Got to Get It by Sisqo, Wait A Minute by Ray J. ft Lil Kim. That CD had some crazy records on it and I used to play it all the time. I grew up listening to so much music around my family, and I think I’ve always been made for music cause I’ve loved it since I was young.
Tell us more about the first song you wrote?
The first song I remember writing is ‘Same Shanga’ and it was about one of my neighbors. It was not a nice song; it was more of a parody record. That’s all I’m going to say about the song.
You’re probably the poster child for ‘Alte’ music in Ghana. What made you decide to lead with the genre of music?
That’s interesting. I consider myself more of an Afro-fusion artiste but I guess what I do is quite unique in comparison to what people would consider Afro-fusion or Afrobeat. I get it. I didn’t decide to lead in that genre of music. I’m just making my music and people are categorizing me as what they think that I am. I mean I’m evolving and I’m growing and we will all see what happens in the future.
What do you think is the future of the ‘Alte’ music genre in Ghana and Africa?
I think it’s going to be the bridge that ultimately closes the gap between us and the rest of the world. The fact that people are creating so many fusions and trying so many different things, I think Africa will not only go to the rest of the world, but the world will also come to Africa and to Ghana. Very soon, we will see people collaborating with Vietnamese artistes and artistes in Venezuela, Poland and it’s all going to be fusion and cross-pollination and its going to be so interesting.
Do you think the alternative music genre is a political statement of sorts? What is your view on the genre being counter-cultural and at the same time being neo-cultural?
No. People keep making it a political statement. I don’t think it’s a political statement. I really think it’s just young people expressing themselves and trying to be free. But for some reason, it always keeps getting politicized.
It’s true though. I do agree that it is counter-cultural and neo-cultural at the same time But I think it’s necessary. It’s necessary for us to buck the old traditions that don’t serve us and create new ones; absolutely 100%.
“Androgyny has become a big thing in music videos now, and that’s helping to broaden people’s perspectives” What are your thoughts on the androgynous outlook being likened to the alternative music scene?
It’s fair. I think, in general, Androgyny has always been likened to alternative scenes all over the world. It wasn’t up until recently that androgyny became a thing in the Western world. But people who are transgendered, people who sort of take on feminine or masculine personalities for drag shows have been a thing since the 70s,80s,90s. It’s nothing new but it’s just now becoming common. So to me, it’s always been an alternative thing. Now, it’s becoming a bit more mainstream and that’s important because now, you’re giving people the options of who they can be, what they can be and how they can be and you’re not boxing them into one way of thinking. They don’t have to be binary. It’s neither A or B.
What inspired ‘Fluid’?
Literally, I don’t know. I was just in the studio and I told Mike Mills to produce ‘Fluid’. I told him ‘give me a beat that sounds like the beach’ and I just kept thinking about water and I started ‘mmm, I’m feeling so fluid’. That record was just fun and it was just about… I don’t even know what fluid is about. But I think different people have different interpretations of it.
What collaborations have you been most excited about?
I can’t talk about them yet but with the ones that I’ve done so far, I enjoyed the one with CK on his album. I think he’s very talented. I have one coming up with Black Bones as well which I’m very excited about. I’m also excited about working with more artistes, more producers, more writers, fashion houses, in the future; you know, whatever that will just allow me to explore my career creatively.
What were your expectations of the music industry before moving to Ghana in 2017?
I didn’t have any expectations but I knew it would be a difficult space to navigate. And I also knew that Africa was about to be up next and that if there was anywhere I needed to be to make music, it was back here.
What prompted you to pen down ‘3 Moments That Defined My Journey As a Young Woman In Search of Herself & Her Purpose’?
Oh! The article that I did for Ok Africa! They just asked me to write something for them and I wanted o share stories that didn’t just come from me but also from other women that I knew who were incredible thinkers and writers. And I just wanted to share things that were about self, mother-daughter relationships, romantic relationships. I thought it was an important piece.
Do you think the music industry has made any strides in the subject of female artists?
Yes, 100%! I don’t think the music industry has made any strides, I think female artistes have made strides and have forced the music industry to come to them. I also honestly think that, some of the best campaigns about to be seen, especially out of Ghana are all going to be female artistes. I can say that with my chest! In the next one to two years.
What serious topic would like to talk about if given the platform?
So many. For me, sexual abuse is one big one for me; child sexual abuse in our communities. It happens a lot and we don’t discuss it. I’d also like to discuss human rights and Africans’ approach towards the topic. They attribute human rights to certain people and they don’t to other people , which in my opinion is a really big conversation especially when given the climate and the things that have been discussed most recently in terms of how people live their lives and who they love and how they love.
One thing you did in high school that you didn’t tell your parents?
If I didn’t tell my parents, why would I tell you guys? I’m not going to say it .
What’s one thing people will be surprised to learn about you?
One thing people would be surprised to learn about me is that I can cook my ass off. I am a sick cook, international cook. Like you name the dish, and I’d prepare it. From across the world, I’m a fucking crazy cook.
Which fictional character do you most identify with?
This is such an interesting question. I am not sure; I don’t know because there are so many. I would think about it ‘cause this is an important question.
What fashion accessory can’t you leave home without?
My wallet. I have these cute Coach wallets that my aunt got me.
What style trend could you never try?
I can’t think of any off the top of my head right now but I could never try the ‘anime’ girl look.
What style trend can’t you wait to try?
I think I have tried them all to be honest.
Favourite fashion era and why?
The 1990s and the 70s. Late 90s and early 2000s for men and womenswear high fashion and 70s for the casual clothes.
Top 3 things in your make-up bag?
Uhm, my make-up routine is really simple. I always have Vaseline for my lips, boy brows from Glossier and uhm, the Fenty foundation for sure.
Describe your everyday look?
My everyday look is super casual. As casual as a T-shirt, baggy jeans, slippers, sandals or sneakers. Whatever feels more comfortable.
Cologne or perfume?
You know what, cologne!
Vintage or modern jewelry?
What’s your go to colour for anything?
White. I love white!
It’s a dinner date with big time industry execs, what are you wearing?
Probably some high fashion shit. Let them know the star is in the building. I would probably go for a sporty knee length Prada boots then I’d be in all black. A black turtleneck, black leather pants and a black leather jacket. The jacket would probably be distressed…
Garments – AL Woman
Jewelry – Cheery Baby
Photography – Fred Ocloo
Editing – Jhey Too Cool
Styling & Creative – Brimah
Hair – Christele Codo
Make Up – Shine and Shadows
Babouche – Jermaine Bleu
Location – Bondai Restaurant